Park City-based singer and songwriter YaYa has released the “Butterflies.”
The artist, who specializes in a blend of electronic dance music and rhythm and blues, said her second single, now available on all streaming platforms, took a while to release.
“It’s been about 2 ½ years since my first single, ‘A Song, A Place,’ was released,” she said. “And I’m happy to be doing music again and pushing things forward.”
“Butterflies” was inspired by her time as a nanny.
“The family had a bubble machine and a beautiful yard,” she said. “I remember one day when I was watching the girl I was a nanny to riding her bike, and there were all of these butterflies flying around. Some things like love, nature and being outside started to come into my mind. So I started to write.”
After jotting down the first couple of lines, YaYa, born Yanique Bland, started writing other songs. But when her life got a touch crazy, she returned to “Butterflies.”
“My boyfriend broke up with me and my car got stolen on my 24th birthday right out of our driveway,” she said.
In addition, YaYa was involved in the USA Team Division of the 2022 World of Dance competition in Los Angeles, with LePumz, a dance crew led by her aunt MekaDayz (Nyesha Hamil).
“So the song kind of warped itself what I was feeling at the time,” said Yaya, who takes voice and piano lessons from Debra Cook, co-founder of the Utah Conservatory. “It was leaning towards the negative at the beginning, but then I decided to turn it into a positive song about learning experiences and other lessons. I like writing metaphorically and objectively, and that song just came out of everything crazy that was going on in my life.”
To help record the song, YaYa turned to her mother, SunnyMarz, born Tanisha Hamil, to produce it.
While SunnyMarz had recorded her own songs and performed with her sister MekaDayz at the Park Silly Sunday Market and the Park City Kimball Arts Festival, she had to brush up on how to be a producer.
“Although I sang and played piano, because I was a self-taught singer and songwriter, I didn’t know anything about producing,” she said.
After SunnyMarz graduated Salt Lake City College Fashion Institute with a degree in design and merchandising with an emphasis in technical apparel, she decided to enroll in the Berklee School of Music online certificate program for producing.
“You can do certificates or degrees, and I thought if I’m going to produce anyone, I should start with my family,” she said.
While studying to become a certified ProTools engineer, SunnyMarz also took some EDM classes.
“That was totally new to me, because I knew nothing about electronic dance music writing and programming,” she said. “And EDM and R & B are the styles that YaYa loves, and that’s the crossroad we’re trying to hit with her music.”
With certificates, training and the song under their belts, YaYa and SunnyMarz began piecing the work together.
“It was rough, because we’re both firecrackers,” SunnyMarz said with a laugh. “We’re creatives. And I don’t think it’s a cliche to say creatives are crazy, because I think we are.”
YaYa also felt some tension during the initial sessions.
“We would get into the studio and it would be like ‘Don’t tell me what to do, because this is my idea,’” she said laughing. “So for me it was a learning experience to shift my emotions and take in who my family is. We have a lot of strong Jamaican women and I just took it in and tried to allow myself to calm down.”
Some of the friction stemmed from being with each other 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
In addition to their work as singers and songwriters, YaYa and SunnyMarz also help the rest of their family, which includes the family’s patriarch, Errol Grant, former leader of the Park City-based Patwa Reggae Band, run 11 Hauz Jamaican restaurant at Kimball Junction.
“Our days are like saying ‘good morning,’ driving to work in the same car, working at the restaurant. driving home in the same car and saying ‘good evening,’” said YaYa, who also enrolled in the Berklee School of Music online for courses in rhythm and blues vocals.
While it took some time, she and SunnyMarz began to realize they were working for the same goal — to make the best song they could.
“We’re finally finding out that we’re a team here,” SunnyMarz said. “We’re not oil and water anymore.”
YaYa looked back to the story told in “Butterflies,” which helped clear her mind.
“It’s about realizing that my protection and how I will continue to keep going is first, by myself, but how I also need to have the support of the people I love most — specifically my family,” she said. “My mom has been writing songs forever, and I’ve been bumping and dancing to her songs since I was little. I am so thankful to her.”
Producing YaYa’s song also taught SunnyMarz more about producing than any online or in-person class.
“Part of that was to allow each other into our individual processes,” SunnyMarz said. “It was important for us to learn how to engage with one another in creating something that YaYa envisioned and heard.”